Why are sunsets Orange and Blue?
I don’t know. Why?
Because God is a Denver Bronco’s fan.
– Things every Coloradan knows
I have a special place in my heart for Colorado. There is something to be said about a place where you can be who you want to be, when you want to be it, at your leisure and discretion. In Denver you can easily see a person wearing cowboy boots, with dreadlocks, in a “Bad Bunny” t-shirt under a leather jacket while riding a skateboard. If you are comfortable in your own skin, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, no one cares who you choose to be.
Surprisingly noticeable in Denver is the diversity. Different ethnicities, cultures, and races all bubble in a stew. Colorado is not a melting pot, one culture blending into another. It is a stew- everyone bringing their own flavor to the pot and celebrating differences while maintaining a sense of identity. While Denver has not officially adopted the term “Sanctuary City” it has laws in place rejecting the idea that a person’s right to live in Colorado is based on their immigration status. For example, it is illegal to inquire into citizenship status in Colorado. Period. Laws like these, in addition to Colorado regularly hosting refugees of other countries, provide the perfect backdrop for diversity.
That means there is something for everyone. Love outdoors? Camping, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, white water rafting, and rock-climbing beckon. There are over 39,000 miles of trails in Colorado open year-round for running, biking and walking with an interactive map that you can access on your phone. There is everything from a driving “hike” at Garden of the Gods to 58 14ers (peaks that exceed 14,000 feet in altitude) wherein you can rock climb. You are welcome to as much or as little outdoor adventure as you like.
If you prefer culture Denver has a thriving art scene. First Friday Art Walks showcase new exhibitions monthly. Denver is home to the Denver Performing Arts complex which hosts operas, symphonies, plays and world class ballet. There are multiple large and small concert venues catering to every musical preference. In addition to that are plenty of free outdoor events and festivals hosted weekly.
Sports? Colorado is home to 8 professional sports teams; Football, Basketball, Baseball, Soccer, Hockey, Rugby, & Lacrosse. No matter the season there is always a home team playing on the big screen at your local sports bar.
Speaking of sports bars, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Colorado is a go to place for Craft Beer. As of December 2022, Colorado was home to 423 open breweries. That means that you could go to a different brewery every single day for 14 months and never have the same beer. And that’s not counting the beer that your friends brew in their garage with the hops they grow in their backyard. Beer is an art form in Colorado.
A lot to process? Let me narrow some recommendations down for you.
Looking for a taste of home?
Headed south? Isla Verde is a quaint restaurant in Parker, Colorado. Chef Jose Rivera started cooking at a seafood restaurant with his dad in Ponce, Puerto Rico, which is where he met his wife Carmen. They studied at the Institute of San Juan and honed their culinary craft. The family moved back and forth between Colorado and Puerto Rico until they eventually settled down in Colorado and raised their 3 kids. They recently bought their business from their previous predecessors, whom they had worked with in a Cuban Bakery. Jose’s goal is to “Bring the feel of Puerto Rico to Colorado.”
Downtown? Dos Abuelas Trained at a culinary school in New York, Chef Keigh Crespo has a fantastic heritage. Her grandmother was in her 20’s when she packed up her family of 11 kids and moved, at the doctor’s urging, to the Bronx to give birth to twins. Both of her grandmothers are from Yauco, Puerto Rico. Keigh learned dual styles of Puerto Rican cooking from her Dos Abuelas and fell in love with the idea that she can give a “hug through her pork” in honor of her grandmothers.
Keigh moved to Puerto Rico to fully understand her heritage and found her soul at home during a naming ceremony in the mountains of Utuado. She is excited to see the success of her business and ultimately her goal is to, “Be successful here (in Colorado) so that (she) can move back to Puerto Rico and open a sustainable farming area so that no one on the Island ever goes hungry.”
Jose’s goal is to “Bring the feel of Puerto Rico to Colorado.”
On the move? Areyto Food Truck is known and celebrated as the 1st Puerto Rican food truck in Colorado. Chef Yaritza Ortiz, who goes by Yari, is a Mayagüez native. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico and left for college originally moving to Ohio. After becoming successful in the business world, she felt a craving for food from home but no places serving Puerto Rican food; so she decided to do it herself. Her food has been featured on Eating Across America, Thrillist, Food Network and she has a host of other accolades.
When asking Yari when she began cooking, she tells the story of being 9 years old and making lasagna for her family- she also helped her family get a brand new kitchen as a child. You’ll have to ask her for that story yourself when you visit her truck, which is always on the move. The best way to find her truck is her Food Truck Facebook Page.
She named her food truck based on the Taino word Areyto, which translates into “a place where people gather”, which is her goal for the Puerto Rican community in Colorado. And yes, she surfs.
Want to dance? La Rumba is Denver’s number 1 destination for Latin Dancing. Monday- Wednesday they host advanced classes in Salsa and Bachata. Thursday – Sunday they host beginning dance classes from 7-9 and then the floor heats up as a nightclub. Embodying true latin spirit, the club attire is “Dress to Impress.” They also tell me that if you get hungry after the club there is a food truck right across the street and the club has free parking.
Want to help the community? While not Puerto Rican, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Brother Jeff’s Cafe & Cultural Center. Founded by Jeff Fard, whose spirit is truly boricua, he has been laser focused on helping the local community for over 25 years. Looking for a food pantry? Brother Jeffs. Need clothes for an interview? Brother Jeffs. Want to arrange an open mic night for kids protesting violence? Brother Jeffs. Want to help spread the work about HIV prevention and treatment? Brother Jeffs. He hosts a Podcast that spotlights issues in the community and a space for solutions. His dual mottos of, “Say it Loud” and “If not Us, Who? If not Now, When!” are woven into the fabric of everything he does. Check him out when you are in town.
Enjoy Denver Mi Gente!
Next stop? Las Vegas. See you in 2 weeks.